The Blessing of Contrary Winds

by Alan Stewart

On January 13, 1997, Steve Fossett began an adventure with high expectations of becoming the first person to circle the globe in a hot-air balloon. After three days, he had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was flying at 24,500 feet eastward over Africa.

However, as he was approaching Libya, he faced a strong headwind that made it very difficult to navigate the balloon. Knowing that hot-air balloons cannot be turned, Fossett made a change in the altitude of the balloon in hopes of finding a crosswind. He vented helium, and the balloon dropped to 6,300 feet and found a southeastern wind that took him just south of Libya.

What adds intrigue to this story is the fact the Libyan government did not approve of the idea of someone entering its air space. Unbeknown to Fossett, once the balloon was spotted on radar, the Libyan military was prepared to shoot him out of the sky. His life had been saved because of winds that were contrary to his course of direction.

In Mark 6, the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee when a sudden storm arose. Their predicament is recorded in verse 48 stating they were, "toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them." Simply spoken, they were rowing hard, but were not getting anywhere.

There are seasons in life when we encounter contrary winds, and our lives produce intense motion but very little progress. Frantically, we try rowing harder, readjusting the sails, or even lightening the load of our ship, but like the angel wrestling with Jacob, we "prevail not." Contrary winds can be so discouraging that they are often taken to be Satan's hindrances, when in reality they are God's divinely appointed obstacles.

The Lord performs some of His greatest movements in our lives through contrary winds. Contrary winds brought famine that led Joseph into prominence. Contrary winds parted the Red Sea for Moses. Perhaps the prophet said it best in Nahum 1:3, "the Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and the storm."

Just why does the Lord find it necessary to send contrary winds into our pathway? Contrary winds stretch us for a greater purpose. During the storm of Mark 6, the disciples were only thinking about the moment, but Jesus was thinking about the men. Contrary winds on the Sea of Galilee would prepare them for stronger contrary winds of persecution they would face in later years. Warren Wiersbe has said, "a life that cannot be tested is a life that cannot be trusted."

In the furniture industry, only strong, superbly-grained wood is selected in the building of expensive furniture. What is the secret of the decorative graining? The trees are chosen from a location that is exposed to constant winds and storms. The constant winds stretch the trees and develop the finest woven fibers which add strength, beauty, and value to the wood.

Contrary winds groomed Peter for the "rushing mighty wind" of Pentecost. Contrary winds groomed Elijah for the whirlwind that took him up into heaven. An artist never views his painting in progress as it is, but rather as it will be. In the same manner, contrary winds from the Lord are never meant to break us, but to bend us into a more usable shape.

Contrary winds stir us to a greater profession. When Jonah was bent on taking his own course, we are told in Jonah 1:4, "the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea..." Contrary winds that had strength to destroy anything in its path were used to adjust Jonah and spare him from a failed mission.

The traditional philosophy of the world says, "go with the wind." However, winds blowing in the same direction we are heading will often cause us to grow careless, and can push us to destruction. Contrary winds give the initial perception that everything in life is against us, but keep in mind that an airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. It is actually the stress and tension of the wind that helps lift the plane to soar. Contrary winds added passion to Jonah's sermons, depth to Job's integrity, and credibility to Moses' leadership. Like a vine clinging to a tree during a storm, contrary winds will only press us closer to the trunk if we are growing on the right side of the tree.

Contrary winds stabilize us with a greater peacefulness. In Acts 27, Paul is a prisoner aboard a ship heading for Rome when "the winds were contrary...and the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind..." When the storm reached its pinnacle, everything and everyone fell apart except Paul. Recently, I watched a documentary on icebergs in the north Atlantic. When a storm arose, the winds that tossed and battered the ships had absolutely no affect on the icebergs. They were unmoved by the wind because only one-ninth of the iceberg was above the surface.

What was the secret of John remaining "in the Spirit" while exiled, Peter falling asleep while facing an execution, and Paul restfully "content" in a Roman dungeon? They were so hidden in Christ that external winds could not shake their internal peace! The weight, work, and worth of the anchor will never be fully realized without feeling the pressure of the wind and the stress of the waves.

Contrary winds are filled with unexpected opportunity, but only if you know how to capture them in your sails.

© 2008 Alan Stewart

Alan Stewart is pastor of Rechoboth Baptist Church in Soddy Daisy, Tenn.

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